Product Reviews

Multitasking vacuums may skimp on cleaning

Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501
Shark Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501

There’s an upright vacuum that’s also a canister, along with an upright that steam-cleans floors. But as multitasking vacs become a trend, Consumer Reports’ tests show that some skimp on the cleaning that counts.

Lower prices and freedom from bag changes help make bagless uprights the hottest sellers. Shark’s Rotator Professional Lift-Away NV501, $250, has a canister component that lifts out onto a wheeled base and doubles as a hand-held vac. Strong carpet cleaning, a swiveling head for easier steering, and an arsenal of tools helped it join the winners list. But you’ll find even better vacs for as little as $120, especially for pet hair.

You’ll also find Samsung among your canister choices after a long absence from the US market. Tests included the Electric Blue VCC88P0H1B, $350, and Champagne VCC96P0H1G, $450, which has more dust-separating chambers inside. But both had dismal suction for tools and were just mediocre at carpet cleaning, still a vacuum’s top task. And small bins make dust capacity minimal for both models.


Consumer Reports’ tests with almost 700 pounds of sand, wood flour, cat fur, and other messes found other models that put features before performance. Here are the details:

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A combo that doesn’t cut it. Oreck’s VersaVac upright, $250, has two pads and a plastic frame that convert it to a steam mop. It’s also the brand’s first bagless vacuum and, at 13 pounds, one of the lightest Consumer Reports has tested. But it was only middling on carpets and worked better on bare floors with the brush on. What’s more, the Oreck doesn’t accept tools.

A name that doesn’t deliver. Eureka’s AirExcel NLS upright, $100, aced pet-hair tests and maintained suction as claimed. But don’t take its “excel” moniker too seriously: The bagless vac was subpar at carpet cleaning and emissions, and it ended up far below the humbler Eureka AirSpeed AS1000A, a Best Buy at $120.

A smart feature on a so-so vac. The Electrolux Precision Brushroll Clean EL8807A, $300, has a built-in comb that skims hair from the brush roll when you press a foot-controlled lever. The feature worked flawlessly in the test. Too bad this bagless upright was less than stellar at cleaning carpets and delivering air flow for tools.

How to Choose

Start by matching the type of vacuum to the cleaning you usually do. Uprights, especially with a bag, do better overall on carpets. Canisters are easier to maneuver, especially on stairs. Also consider:


For allergies, stick with bags. Emptying a bagless vac’s bin tends to be a messy, dusty process, though changing bags can also raise dust if you aren’t careful.

Check the features. A brush on-off switch protects bare floors and avoids scattering debris. A motorized brush deep-cleans carpets far better than suction alone.

Try it out. Even if you order online, go to a store first. Push, pull, turn, and lift models you’re considering. Check controls and features. And see whether the store will match a lower price you get online.

Consumer Reports writes columns, ­reviews, and ratings on cars, appliances, electronics, and other consumer goods. ­Previous stories can be found at ­